Mike Ainsworth died trying to protect a neighbor.

Story highlights

Rick Martin says he cried after interviewing the sister of a Good Samaritan

Mike Ainsworth ran to the aid of a neighbor threatened with a carjacking

Ainsworth was shot in a New Orleans neighborhood and died while his two sons watched

Martin: Ainsworth's sacrifice showed how a man can be a pillar of strength for a community

Atlanta CNN  — 

Tears rolled down my cheeks when I hung up the phone after interviewing Billy Ainsworth Cole, the sister of Harry “Mike” Ainsworth, who was gunned down mercilessly last week in New Orleans in front of his two sons, ages 9 and 11.

Mike heard a woman scream as he was waiting by the school bus stop with his children. As a member of the Citizens 8th Police District Association in the Algiers Point neighborhood, Mike naturally jumped to the aid of his neighbor.

When the woman tried to enter her car, a man attempting to carjack her pulled out a gun. Mike ran over and jumped on the front hood to try to stop the crime, only to be shot by the gunman. The gunman fled on foot, but left Mike stumbling a short distance away, suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest. He collapsed in a neighbor’s yard.

Rick Martin

Moments later, before emergency help could arrive, Mike died, with his sons beside him.

I could have been faced with that choice. I have two children, ages 6 and 4, along with my wife, that I would give my life to protect. But Mike’s love, not only for his children and their mother, but also for a neighbor, showed me I have a lot more love to give.

Now, waiting at the bus stop with my 6 year-old, I think about what I would do if faced with a similar situation. I’ve thought of myself as a courageous person, but after covering the story of Mike Ainsworth, I feel very small.

Mike’s heroism sparked a lot of discussion. One friend of mine even asked me, “Would I prefer to be a dead hero or a live witness?” My initial thought was that it was a cold response to such a tragic situation, but I took a day to think about how I would answer that. And I decided that if my wife, my mother or daughters were the potential victims of a would-be carjacker and someone had the courage to intervene, I would be eternally grateful.

No one should judge Mike Ainsworth by suggesting he made a bad decision to put himself in harm’s way. If people had the heart this man displayed through his actions, we all would be living in a better place.

As we go about living our daily lives after Mike Ainsworth gave the ultimate sacrifice, his own life, to protect his neighbor we should think about what we can do to make another person’s life better. I know what I’m going to do. I have a list of many heroes who are part of my history and have become famous in time. I’m just going to add the name Mike Ainsworth to that list.

I can imagine that Mike’s sons are having a difficult time understanding why their father is no longer with us, but the power of his spirit will live on, particularly with many other caring fathers. Mike’s story should be an inspiration that encourages people to think less about how difficult their days are and more about taking a little bit of extra time to read to their children, answer as many questions as they have and hug them a little longer than they may want.

I never met Mike Ainsworth, but I sure wish I did. His story has helped me come out of my shell and given me new purpose and a determination to use whatever strength I have to help others.

We report on acts of death and dying every day and that can harden you as a journalist and make you numb, but it seems I don’t report enough on the impact of life and living. Covering the story of Mike Ainsworth this past week has shown me how to open my heart a little wider, feel a little more compassionate and care a little more about others before it’s too late.

I hope and pray that Mike’s two young sons and their mother, Cheryl, realize that Mike was not only a pillar of strength in the community but that his actions provide a rock solid foundation to support the rest of their lives. Thank you Mike Ainsworth for showing us how to love thy neighbor and live our lives as a pillar of strength.

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